Getting there is half the fun on the Scale Lane Bridge
Cunard Lines used to have the ad slogan, "Getting there is half the fun." Hull is a tired industrial town in the UK that the Guardian calls "the city whose misfortune is to sit on a word ladder between dull and hell"; a new bridge just opened that apparently is all the fun. It is an example of infrastructure that is more than just a utilitarian way to get from A to B, but that is a destination in its own right.
The swing bridge is a swinging place; the Guardian's architectural critic Rowan Moore writes that, like Florence's Ponte Vecchio, it's a place to inhabit or linger.
The Scale Lane bridge in Hull is not quite at the same scale as these great precedents, but it has the same idea – that a bridge is a place, not equipment. It includes on its steel forms a curved array of seating, south-facing and wind-sheltered, like a seaside esplanade. It has a restaurant (unfortunately untenanted) and a raised circular platform for enjoying the view. You can take two routes around it, one stepped and the other ramped, and it flows from a section of land-based street relandscaped as a series of "garden rooms".
Scale Lane Bridge via PSFK/via
It is apparently a hit; according to PSFK, " the Scale Lane Bridge has now become a landmark in Hull and is known as more than just a connection over a river. It has seating areas and even a viewing deck for people to enjoy the views and the occasional ride as the bridge moves."
There is an important difference between building a pedestrian bridge that is fun, and one that is, well, pedestrian. If we want people to walk and cycle more, then we have to recognize that they travel a lot more slowly and are more apt to do it if there is something to look at along the way. If we want great cities, then we have to invest a little bit to make our passage through them interesting instead of utilitarian and boring.
Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
That's why in cities like Toronto we get straight, dull bridges that end at a narrow ramp running in the wrong direction away from downtown, plopping pedestrians on a tiny landing at a traffic light that never seems to change. Delight is irrelevant.